Children’s use of technology can be a dividing subject. Some parents prefer to use technology at home as much as possible. Others feel tech usage should have limits. While the extent to which technology should be used is debatable, it’s important to understand how technology benefits children.
Only by understanding how tech can help our kids learn and the pros and cons to various approaches can we make an educated decision for our families.
Technology is like many things in life and requires moderation. I’ll say that tech is good and beneficial to my children’s education. Having access to the internet has certainly allowed them to learn more than I could ever teach them. However, I also realize that tech usage can get out of control fast. Gaming until 2 am, texting non-stop, and endless scrolling through social media are all bad habits I’ve had to teach my kids about.
The analogy I use is sleep. We all need sleep and sleep is good. Sleeping all day and missing school, work, and obligations is obviously bad. Moderation is key.
Some parents on the other side, who feel that tech distracts from education and social development, might claim that we wouldn’t be in this position if tech wasn’t ubiquitous.
While I can see their position, my counter is that technology isn’t something that should be hidden from children. We live in a tech-focused world and a child that grows up without a basic understanding of how things work will be at a severe disadvantage.
So now we must find a middle ground. We don’t want our kids gaming all night, but we also don’t want to take away the computers and other gadgets. To help find a middle ground let’s explore some of the good that technology provides.
How Technology Benefits Children
Kids Develop Creativity
A kid’s mind is an amazing place. Here’s a quick experiment. Ask your child to come up with a crazy idea. Something silly that would be fun to them. Heck, your kids might provide silly ideas without any motivation. The point is that kids have the ability to imagine up anything. This is partly because they don’t know what isn’t possible yet. Flying PB&J sandwich with lasers that delivers candy? Why not.
Back in the day I used crayons and paper to draw out my fantasies. Maybe we had watercolors in art class at school. Today’s kids have access to free and easy-to-use tech that teaches them how to code via games and even turns ordinary drawings into a playable game.
By experiencing the thrill of taking an idea, giving it shape, and then seeing it come to life kids have the ability to explore and expand their creativity. This helps with confidence building and instills in the child a sense of pride when coming up with a new idea. It also helps build resiliency. If you have ever developed a website or app you know nothing works 100% all the time. You have to build, test, fix, and re-build. The only thing you can’t do is give up.
Develop Social Skills
This will lose a few readers. Tech helping social skills? That might seem counterintuitive, but give me a chance to explain.
Looking back when I was a kid baseball card collecting was a big thing. It was easy to find fellow collectors, trade cards, and have very interesting debates on who the best player was at that given moment.
Technology also helps foster a community. Your kids can easily find fellow Minecraft enthusiasts, for example. By joining a community they can interact with others and learn. They also get the joy that comes with helping someone else who shares your hobby. Teaching a new player can be a great way to develop social skills and gain confidence.
Another great way to develop social skills with technology is through coding camps. I went to summer camps as a kid. Spending a week away from home, learning with others, and being free was a great experience. I love that my kids could do something similar, but instead of canoeing they were coding. They learn how to work in teams and resolve conflicts without mom and dad always stepping in to make a decision.
Tech Builds Problem Solving Skills
Life throws many challenges at us, some of which we aren’t prepared to handle. Technology in general, and playing video games in particular, can help build strong problem solving skills.
Think about a video game that has quests or “survival mode” play where a player must outlast all the others to win the game. To win you have to think fast and operate under conditions with imperfect information. You don’t know what items the game will provide, what your opponent has in their inventory, or what the opponent’s strategy will be. You simply must make a plan and revise as new facts are presented.
That sounds a lot like adult life.
Technology allows for freedom of expression. Part of that means your kids can build anything they can dream up. When you build things you will inevitably have errors. This could be trying to build a character up to a higher level or build a new game from scratch. Either way, a child will need to learn patience and problem solving skills to achieve their goal.
Preparation For The Future
Unless something very odd happens technology will continue to play an important role in our daily lives. Early exposure to technology will better prepare children for careers in high-tech environments. High-tech also goes well with high-paying. Even traditionally non-tech companies are getting into tech, such as Home Depot adding 1,000 tech jobs a few years back.
Tech jobs are here to stay. With the rapid pace at which new technologies are released many of the things we use today will be obsolete in a few years. The children who develop skills at an early age, especially the ability to quickly pick up new technology, will stand to benefit the most in the future.
I can’t end a conversation on how technology benefits children without discussing education. It’s no secret that many kids are using virtual classrooms and distant education this year. While these methods of learning certainly have some issues, without computers kids might have missed out on an entire semester or year of school.
Technology also presents new ways of learning. Think back to your school days. You likely had books and binders to store all your notes. Today kids have computers. While excellent at reducing what you need to carry in a backpack, computers also provide a window to the world. Kids can quickly find information and learn about new topics.
Computers are cool, but how amazing do you think it will be when VR is incorporated into the classroom? That lesson on the rain forests will be much more memorable when your kids can “walk” through the jungle as opposed to just looking at pictures, videos, or reading about it.
It’s common for parents to question how technology benefits children. We all naturally want what is best for our kids. With the prevalence of tech we have to determine what is acceptable and where to draw the line. I’ve always felt that tech is like any other tool. It should work for us, the end user, and not the other way around. I’m proud of the skills my kids have picked up by being exposed to technology. It’s rewarding to see a young mind grow and without access to technology I know my kids would have different skills than they do today.